The purpose of the Talent Assessment Program is to identify and retain team members who drive the success of our organization. This is a top priority and strategic process for people managers at GitLab. Our Talent Assessment Program (which is a critical piece of our overall Talent Development Program) serves as a mechanism to help mitigate a couple of our biggest company risks: lack of performance management and losing key people.
There are many talent assessment options, and we have opted to use a Performance/Potential Matrix (commonly known as "9-Box" in the US) and annually review Key Talent.
GitLab's Performance/Potential Matrix is a type of talent assessment that forms part of our Talent Development Program. To ensure we remain efficient and consistent, we built a Performance/Potential Assessment Tool to leverage during this process.
In addition to assessing Performance/Potential, we annually review Key Talent aligned with the criteria outlined below on this page. The combination of Performance/Potential and Key Talent assessments allow us to identify team members who drive the organization’s success and use our engagement tools to retain them.
|Low Potential||Medium Potential||High Potential|
|Exceeding||Team member is performing well in their current job but needs to continue development in current role, or has not exhibited greater technical and/or leadership potential. Team member has not demonstrated willingness to take on significantly greater scope and responsibility in the next 12-24 months.||Team member performs well in their current job, makes valuable contributions and consistently demonstrates competencies required. May be ready to take on greater scope and responsibility in the next 12 months||Team member is developing faster than the demands of their current position and/or division. Team member has been given additional assignments and has demonstrated high-level commitment/achieved significant results. Team member is ready to broaden their skill set and take on significantly greater scope and responsibility|
|Performing||Team member is currently meeting expectations of their role. Team member is not prepared to absorb additional scope or complexity in the next 12-24 months.||Team member is currently meeting expectations but may not be willing or able to advance; may not be ready to absorb additional scope or complexity in the next 12 months.||Team member is contributing as expected and is meeting performance expectations. Team member may be ready to take on greater technical and/or leadership responsibility in the next 6-12 months.|
|Developing||Team member is not meeting performance expectations and there is still more to learn in the current position. There are questions about their ability to succeed in the current role long-term.||Team member has not been in the position long enough to adequately demonstrate their technical abilities, or may have lost pace with changes in the organization.||Team member is not meeting the requirements in their current role, or we have not had sufficient time to fully assess performance. This could be a result of a team member being recently promoted/new to the role. The team member could be more successful in the current role with more direction, or in another role or department that more appropriately suits their skill set.|
This matrix is an individual assessment tool that evaluates both a team members current contribution to the organization and their potential level of contribution. It is commonly used in succession planning as a method of evaluation an organization's talent pool, identifying potential leaders, and identifying any gaps or risks. It is regularly considered a catalyst for robust dialogue (through a calibration process) and is considered more accurate than one person's opinion. The performance/potential matrix can be a diagnostic tool for career development.
Performance includes both results and behaviors, and is broken into three areas: Developing, Performing, and Exceeding.
Please note that
Developing should not be automatically associated with underperformance. As highlighted below,
Developing can also be used for new hires or newly promoted team members that are still ramping up in their new roles. Your manager will provide example and detail to ensure the rationale behind the
Developing rating is communicated.
Based on the Job Family responsibilities, values and remote working competencies, team members in this category are not meeting all of the expectations. There is still more to learn and improve on in the current position to achieve the desired results. This may be due to the following:
Based on Job Family responsibilities, values and remote working competencies team members in this category are “on track” and meeting all expectations. They can independently and competently perform all aspects of the Job Family responsibilities in a way that is aligned with our values and competencies. Their performance consistently meets the requirements, standards, or objectives of the job, and they can occasionally exceed expectations. They deliver results in a timely and accurate fashion. This performance may be expected as a result of:
Team members that are exceeding consistently surpass the demands of their current position. They demonstrate unique understanding of work beyond the assigned area of responsibility. They contribute to GitLab’s success by adding significant value well beyond Job Family requirements, values, and remote working competencies. This performance may be expected as a result of:
Please note that an
Exceeding assessment for the performance factor does not guarantee a promotion. While the performance factor is a consideration, there are several considerations that are reviewed when evaluating promotion readiness. Please work with your manager to align expectations.
While the primary objective of the performance axis of the Performance/Potential Matrix is to calibrate team member performance, this axis of the matrix also directly impacts the Performance Factor, which is a determining factor in the annual compensation review. Please reference the Total Rewards Performance Factor page for more detail on compensation impact.
How can managers determine whether their team members are Developing, Performing, or Exceeding? "The Performance Factor" = Job Family responsibilities (60%)/ functional competencies (if applicable) + GitLab Values Competencies + GitLab Remote Work Competencies (40%). It is optional to use The Performance Factor Workheet for weighing the different Performance Factors.
Performance against Job Family role, requirements, and performance indicators should be weighted at 60%.
For management roles, please also review and consider the levels outlined in the Organizational Structure.
Performance against competencies should be weighted at 40%.
While performance is focused on the past and present, potential is focused on the future. Because of the nature of the future-focus associated with potential, it is more difficult to measure than performance, and inherently more qualitative than quantitative. A key element in determining potential is the manager and leadership observation and experience working with team members. Managers can gauge team member potential against the expectations in their current role or their potential to take on different roles across GitLab.
Potential refers to the ability and desire of a team member to successfully assume increasingly more broad or complex responsibilities and learn new skills, as compared to peers and the roles' responsibilities outlined in their respective Job Family. This could include the potential to move up to the next level in their job family, and/or a lateral move.
Potential can change over time as team members develop new interests, as new opportunities for growth arise, and as team members continue to broaden their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Low potential generally refers to a team member who is not working at full potential against the roles and responsibilities outlined in their Job Family. There could be a variety of reasons for this, including:
Please note that low potential does not equate to low performance, but has more to do with the team member's readiness and promotability for future opportunities.
Medium potential generally refers to a team member who is growing in their current role and demonstrating interest in advancing (up or laterally) and they exhibit knowledge, skills, and abilities that indicate this. Team members with medium potential generally:
High potential generally indicates that a team member will be ready for promotion within the next year (or when an opportunity arises). High potential team members:
The portion of the Performance/Potential matrix that often entails the most significant time commitment is the live calibration session of team members with leadership. The calibration session is very valuable to ensure consistency across the Job Family and level, raise any questions, and provide cross-departmental and/or cross-divisional feedback on team members to capture the assessment of different managers as opposed to the opinion of the direct manager exclusively.
It is absolutely essential that managers complete the required pre-work to ensure that the live calibration session is as efficient and productive as possible. Pre work includes:
The calibration session is one of the most important pieces of the Performance/Potential Matrix process, as it provides time for managers, their peers, and their manager to calibrate. Below are a few communication guidelines to ensure efficiency and fairness during the calibration session discussion.
While we want to encourage open and transparent conversation during calibration session, there are certain topics that should be avoided to ensure we respect team member privacy.
Our goal is to have the whole company use the the Matrix Assessment Tool for the Performance/Potential matrix. However, while the tool is being developed and tested, groups who want to get a head start on the Performance/Potential matrix can use the Performance/Potential Matrix team template.
There is an overview of recommended actions to take after the calibration session included in the Performance/Potential Training Information from slide 26- 35. Additionally, this matrix can facilitate:
Our e-group completes Performance/Potential Matrix quarterly for all their direct reports. The rest of GitLab does this twice annually, ideally in Q2 and Q4. In Q2, the exercise would ideally take place after the 360 annual feedback review, and in Q4 the exercise would ideally take place in November prior to the annual compensation review.
Anyone hired on or before October 31st is eligible to participate in the Q4 Performance/Potential matrix annual review. However, if the team member being assessed has been with GitLab for a period of 3 months or less, it is likely that these team members will fall into
Developing for performance and should not expect a compensation adjustment, although they are still eligible to be reviewed.
This is because team members generally need several months to get adjusted to their role and responsibilities, and we ideally would have hired the team member at their accurate market rate.
While there are exceptions, this is the general rule of thumb.
GitLab is kicking off the Performance/Potential Matrix in FY'21 Q3 in preparation for the annual review in FY'21 Q4. The timeline for launch, training, and completion of the Performance Factor exericse is as follows:
If applicable (not required), upload the Performance Review document that was used to share the performance factor result with team members to BambooHR. The document can be loaded to the
Performance Reviews folder in BambooHR.
The Performance/Potential Matrix typically takes 4-6 weeks to complete from beginning to end. Steps are as follows:
In most companies the Performance/Potential Matrix is used exclusively as a management tool and results are not typically shared with team members. In the spirit of our transparency value, we want to encourage feedback with team members. Discussion topics that arise during calibration sessions (or at any other point during the assessment process) are confidential. Please do not share with anyone other than each individual team member.
The guidelines below are general guidelines and recommendations. However, each department is at liberty to determine what works best for their groups in collaboration with their People Business Partner. For all groups we recommend at a minimum that managers communicate Performance Factors. Managers can use discretion regarding communicating Potential and if that is preferred, we recommend for managers align across the division/department on that approach.
We hope to increase the scope of our communication company-wide as we iterate on the Performance/Potential Matrix process and continue to define criteria and receive feedback after the first iteration in Q4 FY21.
For the Q4 FY'21 performance factor assessment round, assessments were calibrated and finalized from October - early December 2020. As different divisions and departments took different approaches with different timelines, dates that performance factors were finalized vary.
This can impact promotions in two ways:
It is important to note that because being promoted recognizes high performance both in terms of increased scope/responsibility and monetarily through compensation increase therefore a promotion "resets" the performance factor evaluation.
Moving forward, we will align at the company level on a final assessment date for consistency. For this first iteration, if you have questions about specific dates during which finalization of ratings for your group occurred, please reach out to your aligned People Business Partner or manager.
After calibration sessions are done and performance factors are determined, it’s time to communicate the final results with team members (after you have been notified that they have been approved by the E-Group). Please refrain from communicating Performance factors until approval through the E-group level is communicated. Having an extensive conversation on performance with your team members is a great way to set them up for success going forward. We also want to take the opportunity to give them a perspective on their career development. Below we will take you through some of the best practices, but remember, if you are even in doubt please reach out to your manager or People Business Partner for support.
Communicate performance factors face-to-face over Zoom. As a manager, this is the opportunity for you to have a conversation with your team member about their performance. Having the conversation over Zoom allows for you to have a dialogue with your team member (versus just sharing their performance factor) and allows you to pick up other information, like tone and non-verbal cues which can tell you more about how someone is feeling during this conversation.
Prepare for the call ahead of time. As a manager, you should have prepared in advance of calibration discussions with your team members. Before communicating a team member’s performance factor, it’s beneficial to look back through your preparation document, notes, and anything relevant that was discussed as part of the calibration exercise. Be prepared with notes on the following:
To help facilitate the conversations we have put together a Performance Review Template which can be shared with the team member. The use of the template is highly recommended, but optional.
Schedule a separate call or repurpose your 1:1 to discuss a team member’s performance factor. The performance factor should be communicationed at the beginning of the meeting. This allows the team member time to ask questions, discuss their assessment, and most importantly, determine next steps.
Protect the confidentiality of other team members by avoiding saying things like “you were the only team member to be rated this performance factor.”
Avoid making future promises like, “In the next review, I will rate you X performance factor.”
"Thank you for taking some time today to discuss your performance. I wanted to discuss your achievements and strengths, improvement areas, future development, and the final result of the performance assessment."
"I assessed your performance factor as **[Insert Performance factor]*:"
"I assessed your performance as [Insert Performance Factor] because:"
Your overall performance is [Insert Performance Factor]. I'd like to thank you for your hard work, and I look forward to continuing to work together! Do you you have any questions? [Allow team member to ask questions and respond] As a next step, let's schedule some time to talk more about what you want to do in the future and create a career development plan together.
The most important part of the performance factor discussion is to determine next steps in partnership with your team member. The team member should be the DRI for the next steps with support from you as their manager. Our Career Development handbook page includes a lot of great information and resources on career development including an individual growth plan template and career development worksheet which should help provide structure and a plan for next steps. If you have any questions or concerns about next steps, please contact your manager and/or your People Business Partner.
How should I factor in COVID impact when assessing performance and potential?
When assessing team members who have had COVID impact that has affected their work, (reduced schedules, modified working hours, more extended time off, mental health impact, etc.) please keep in mind:
Team members - It is very important that you are transparent with your manager if you are experiencing significant impact from COVID that has impacted your overall performance. Managers cannot be mindful of the points above during assessment periods if they are not aware and expectations are not aligned. If it is helpful, feel free to leverage the COVID Self-Evaluation template to facilitate a discussion with your manager.
If you have any questions, please reach out to your aligned People Business Partner.
The succession planning process starts with leaders doing a performance/potential matrix of each of their direct reports.
The resulting charts are reviewed with peers, e.g. all other executives, all other senior leaders in the function, etc.
|Person||Jane Doe||John Doe|
|Role||Job Title||Job Title|
|Emergency (ER)||Someone who could take over this role if the current person were affected by a lottery factor or had to take emergency leave|
|Ready Now (RN)||Someone who could be promoted into the role today|
|Ready in less than 1 year (R1)||Someone who could be trained and elevated into the role in less than 1 year|
|Ready in 1 year or more (R1+)||Someone who could be trained and elevated into the role in 1 year or more|
|Performance/Potential Training Slides||All managers/leaders should review this content prior to beginning the Performance/Potential matrix assessment process.|
|Performance/Potential Team Template||This slide deck provides a template for the assessment for teams that choose to do the exercise prior to the completion of the assessment tool.|
|Values competencies||Values competenices form an important part of the Performance Factor evaluation and are important to review prior to beginning the assessment period.|
|Remote work competencies||Remote work competenices form an important part of the Performance Factor evaluation and are important to review prior to beginning the assessment period.|
|Functional competencies||Functional competenices (for groups that have them developmed) can also influence the Performance Factor and should be reviewed prior to the assessment period.|
|Unconscious Bias handbook page and Recognizing Bias Training||It is important to me mindful of unconscious bias always, and especially during talent reviews and assessments. It is highly recommended that you review the handook page and watch the training.|
|Performance Factor handbook page||This page is the SSOT to review the Performance Factor's impact on compensation.|
Key Talent makes up roughly ~10% of the population. Team members who are considered Key Talent meet at least one of the following criteria:
If the team member were to leave there would be:
For FY’22, while key talent was determined at the VP level (or the Director level in some cases for larger divisions/departments), the decision was based on guidance and our continuous feedback process from all leadership levels.
Performance and being identified as key talent can influence one another, but they are not directly related. For example:
Note: Intentionally hoarding knowledge is in direct conflict with our transparency value and is viewed as a performance issue as we measure performance based on alignment with our values.
A very small portion of our business (roughly ~10% of the population) is considered to be key talent. As such, a team members’ value in the organization should not be determined based on whether or not they are identified as key talent.
While some team members are identified as key talent, this does not mean the rest of our team is not valued and important to our organization’s success. Aligned with our expected performance distribution, approximately 60-65% of our team are core performers (or "performing"). Core performers are responsible for keeping things consistently moving forward. This group comprises the largest population in companies across the board for a reason and is an essential part of any organization’s success.
We want to make sure we use engagement tools to retain Key Talent. A few of our primary engagement tools are: Learning & Development, growth opportunities and compensation.
Note that being considered or designated as a key talent one year, does not mean or guarantee that a team member will be considered or designated as a key talent moving forward.